Academic journal article Military Review

HITLER'S SPY CHIEF: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery

Academic journal article Military Review

HITLER'S SPY CHIEF: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery

Article excerpt

HITLER'S SPY CHIEF: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery, Richard Bassett, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2005, 319 pages, $32.95.

One of the enduring issues of World War II concerns the failure of the German opposition to Adolf Hitler. If, as many sympathetic observers contend, large numbers of decent Germans opposed the Nazi regime, how did that regime hold power until the very moment the country was overrun by Allied forces? At the heart of this debate is the case of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was until 1944 head of the military intelligence service (Abwehr) while also being a senior member of the secret opposition.

Richard Bassett portrays the young Canaris as a brilliant naval officer and secret agent during World War I who later established his conservative credentials as a paramilitary leader during the social chaos of post-1918 Germany. While Bassett acknowledges that Canaris was one of many Germans who willingly supported Hitler during the 1930s and, in fact, remained a supporter for some time, Bassett also provides an excellent explanation of the odd, but enduring, friendship between Canaris and his competitor Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi security service. The two men remained neighbors and had frequent social contact even after Heydrich's ruthless deceptions and covert actions had contributed to Canaris's revulsion against Hitler's regime. The study also details the espionage successes of the Abwehr to argue against the frequent criticism of that agency as a group of clumsy amateurs. …

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